Previously on TC:M, all the chefs were more or less awesome as people, but Suzanne Tracht lost the battle of the dish remix and was the first to be eliminated from this our CHAMPIONS ROUND. Remaining are Art Smith, Michael Chiarello, Anita Lo, Hubert Keller, and Rick Bayless.
Wanna Be Starting Something
They each stroll into the kitchen and are amused and a little bewildered to find a sickening spread of burgers and fries where the table should be. Anita’s subdued giggle in particular is very cute. Art says, “Yay, my kind of food.” Kelly explains that the beefy buffet is a hint at today’s Quickfire challenge, which is all about burgers. Incidentally, Hubert’s selling $5,000 hamburgers over at Fleur de Lys. Someone should head over there and check those out; be sure to report back on exactly how many 100 dollar bills are baked into the bun. Also see if you can get into the kitchen and sneak a peek at the wish-granting unicorns they’re using for the patties.
Meanwhile, our chefs will be revisiting the gourmet burger challenge from Season 3. But instead of bringing back the lovely C.J. who won that challenge (What up, C.J.? Still feeling the rain before everyone else in the world?), for today’s judging we get the significantly less lovely Spike, complete with unnecessary smirk, and unnecessary fedora. He along with Morgan Spurlock of Supersize Me will be judging, I guess because they really like hamburgers. I don’t know. Also there’s a guy who won a burger cook-off on The Today Show.
Rick reminisces a bit about Spike being douchetastic back when he was a guest judge during Season 4, and then everyone gets an hour to cook their burger and side dish.
Chiarello is working on a massive meat discus, while Rick mixes three different batches of guacamole to offset his burger. Art is making sure to put extra amounts of love into his hoecake burger. Hubert feels pressure to knock this one out because he serves a ton of burgers every day, and Anita is screwing the whole burger conceit by making cheeseburger soup, usually the province of the Campbell’s company. She ends up unhappy with it, unsurprisingly.
Rick presents his melty queso fundido burger and guacamole to the table. They all love the flavors of his burger, but Spike finds the three guacamoles excessive. I find his presence excessive, but I’m too polite to say so. Except for how I just did! Rick is ticked at their under-appreciation of his guac artistry. Art’s hoecake burger with fried green tomatillos looks and sounds pretty tasty; the tasters all pretty much just go “Mmm.” I can’t even understand Michael Chiarello’s “hamburgese enorme” on like, an elemental level so I don’t know what to make of it. It is hamburger; it is enormous. He serves it with truffle and Manchego cheese potato chips though. Those I understand, and those I want. The table digs in to the monstrosity; Morgan Spurlock dubs it “the interactive burger.” I don’t know if that’s good or bad.
Anita’s soup though, that’s much clearer cut. It comes with a side of bacon fried onion rings, but even onion rings fried in bacon fat don’t sway the table from dinging the cheeseburger soup. Hubert serves his Roquefort cheeseburger with caramelized onions and roasted potatoes with a lot of flourish; Today Show Guy is satisfied just looking at how pretty it is. The Roquefort is slightly overpowering though.
Scores: Hubert earns 3 stars, Art 3.5. Anita only rates 1.5 stars; hearing that made my stomach drop a bit, so I imagine Anita is crushed. Hubert says he feels her pain too. Michael’s monstrosity and Rick’s queso burger both earned 4 stars.
If You Can’t Feed Your Baby
Moving on to Elimination; Kelly introduces a video message from film pixie Zooey Deschanel, who the geekiest of us will probably know from H2G2, and the rest will know from any number of films where she plays the acerbic, misanthropic, and or free-spirited sidekick. Or her band. She’s celebrating something or another, and the chefs will cook a five course meal for her friends and family. Art senses that the fix is in, so by the time Zooey gets to “I’m a vegetarian,” he’s probably already cursing her name. No meat, dairy, or eggs for her, but plus, she’s also allergic to gluten and soy! So she basically eats air. And um, vegetables? Art seriously looks like he wishes Zooey would choke on one of her air sandwiches.
So, this vegan, soy free, wheat free party is about to being! They each choose courses – Art immediately volunteers for dessert for no intelligible reason. Hubert will handle the first course, Anita second, Michael third, and Rick fourth. They head to the grocery store and are baffled at what to buy. As Michael puts it, “Think of the things you love to cook, and just say no.” It’s tough for him because he’s all about pasta. Rick though is finding this a gluten-free cakewalk, because Mexican cuisine is built on vegetables, and beans, and grains. Art picks up some rice milk ice cream, and plans to doll it up with some strawberries. Rick’s bopping around helping Michael pick out produce while he shops for his tamales. Hubert’s appetizer will involve avocados and cucumbers somehow. Chiarello hit on a quinoa pasta that he’s familiar with thanks to his wife’s experimenting with a gluten-free diet. Anita’s plans are apparently super-secret, as we don’t hear anything from her.
Prep montage: Rick feels comfortable with his dish. Hubert is making a “white” cucumber gazpacho, beet salad, and and avaocado-asparagus mash. He has many years experience serving vegetarians, so he expects his dish will be a hit. Anita is grilling eggplant and making lentil salad for her second course; it’s a variation on a dish that Annisa usually serves with yogurt. Chiarello’s prepping his quinoa pasta with salsa verde and pine nut gremolata, and then soares time to help Hubert, who’s rushing to get some tomatoes peeled. Art purees strawberries and champagne to go along with his rice cream. He’s also somehow making almond brittle with no butter. I want to know how that works.
But I don’t get to find out! They take a break to meet Zooey; she shakes everyone’s hands and thanks them all very sweetly for cooking for her since no one ever cooks for her
since she doesn’t eat food. Then they prep their plates, and Hubert returns Michael’s kindness by saving his plates from toppling off the prep table while Zooey’s people file into the dining room. If you ever wanted to make a Hipster Douchebag Barometer you could do it with these people; they each seem to fall along a pretty neat spectrum of Not At All Douchey to Extremely Insufferable Douchebag, and their places on the spectrum eerily correlate to the amount of work they put into their hair.
Hubert has spooned his gazpacho into some of those schmancy glasses, and this provess difficult for the servers to handle as there are not one but two disastrous spills. Luckily Hubert is Always Prepared and he had a couple of extra plates at the ready. He talks up his cucumber and grape gazpacho, avocado and tomato timbale, and beet salad, and everyone seems to love the dish. One guest (Mildly Douchey with a Glasses Coefficient of 2) sniffs that the timbale is too much like guacamole, as if something’s being like guacamole could ever be a bad thing. Zooey thinks the gazpacho was mindblowing.
Anita presents her grilled eggplant and Indian spiced lentils; Zooey finds the eggplant oily, and a couple Medium Douches pronounce the lentils too spicy. Chiarello’s pasta and his personality seem to really win over the audience; Zooey hasn’t had pasta in a while and so thinks this is a kind of homecoming. Her mother echoes that by saying, “This is just like coming home.” LOL, they’re cute. Zooey declares that she wants to hug Michael, she loved the dish so much.
Rick’s corn tamales with chili braised black beans and sautéed greens go down a treat. Gael Greene likes the blend of the different components, and Zooey praises the seasoning. Art comes out to finish the meal with his ice cream; Zooey’s face lights up because she loves ice cream. Zooey’s mom thinks the dish is made for Zooey because she loves strawberries, but Zooey says she’s had better ice cream from coconut milk. Jay Rayner wonders why Art didn’t go for a sorbet, and an EID proclaims that everything about the dish could’ve been a lot better. Everyone loves the brittle though.
They fill out their rating cards, and the chefs verbally high five each other back in the kitchen. Hubert thinks today they’re all 5 of them winners.
The critics disagree.
You’re a Vegetable!
The Critics Table starts out on a high note with Hubert. Again everyone raves over how beautiful his food looked, and Gael compliments the beet salad. Jay Rayner points out the avocado though, and Hubert explains that he designed that component to add some fat to the dish. Can’t complain about that.
Anita is grilled (ha) on her oily eggplant, and she accepts that criticism because she prefers eggplant to be oily, so much so that she marinated it in oil overnight. Jay thinks the lentils and eggplant didn’t complement each other in the dish, but Anita thought the cashew cream she added would bring them together. Gael notes the drabness of the plate, and Anita also concedes that truth. She admits that the constraints of the challenge were very difficult to work with, and that this dish wasn’t her best work. That’s pretty admirable.
Next the critics move on to congratulating Michael for his pasta, as if this was something utterly new for him. They ask about him buying instead of making pasta, and he’s like “Why the heck would you expect me to hand make quinoa pasta in two hours and I’ve never heard of it?” He also regales them with a tale of picking apart each strand of pasta because of the way it clumped during cooking, as proof of the labor of love he put into the dish.
Rick’s tamales are praised as a “true delight” by Jay, but James Oseland thought there was a bit too much going on between the beans, the greens, and the corn mixture. Art gets very gently reamed for choosing the rice cream. Jay thinks it had a cereal taste which just sounds unfortunate. Art thinks that buying the main component of his dish is justified because he didn’t want to risk making it himself and have it come out as something the guests wouldn’t enjoy. Unfortunately for him he didn’t risk anything and it still came out as something the guests wouldn’t enjoy. He stands his ground though, and then James Oseland compliments the butter-free brittle (that I still don’t get, OMG give me the recipe already), and then they walk back to the kitchen while the judges deliberate.
Jay is glad that the food wasn’t just all beige. Gael agrees and says, “The vegans seemed so surprised; God knows what they get to eat,” and claims yet another crowning moment of awesomeness.
And then the chefs return for the final scores:
Hubert: came out of the Quickfire with 3 stars. The diners and James give him a score of 4; Gael comes with 4.5, and he earns 3.5 from Jay for a total of 19.
Michael: earns 4.5 from the diners and Jay, 4 from and James, and a full 5 stars from an almost effusive Gael Greene. I gotta find me some of that pasta. Added to his boss Quickfire score Michael’s total is 22.
Rick: only picks up 3.5 from the table, but 4 from Jay. James gives 3 stars and Gael gives 4; added to his 4 stars from the Quickfire he too tops out at 19, giving Michael the win. Hooray for Clinic Olè!
Now for tonight’s poor unfortunates. Anita of course only earned 1.5 stars during the Quickfire, so it’s not looking too good for her. The diners and James both scored her at 2.5, Gael comes across with a merciful 3.5, and Jay gives 3 making her score an even 13 out of 25. It’s more than half!
Art earned a respectable 3.5 during the Quickfire and 3 stars from the diners, so Anita’s fate seems pretty grim indeed. I mean how can he not get 7 stars from 3 judges? Unless of course he only earns 1.5 from Jay, 2 from Gael, and 2.5 from James which would give him a total of 12.5. Oh look, that’s exactly what happened.
So Art must depart. Anita looks happy but confused as to how this all came about, and Art takes his loss with good grace, and he also takes his $10,000 back to Common Threads which is nothing to cry about. And he’ll always have Oprah.
Next week EID Dale of Season 4 returns to get up in Rick Bayless’s face
for unknown reasonsbecause he is an Extremely Insufferable Douche. Drama llamas be alert; this looks like the episode for you.
Meanwhile I’m still stuck on brittle without butter. Anybody got the recipe hook up on that?